The name might not indicate it, but the Samsung Propel is one of the latest in a line of AT&T messaging phones (the Pantech Matrix is another one), perhaps as a response to the recent text messaging craze that is sweeping the nation. Equipped with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, the Propel is not a smartphone, but that doesn't mean it's without features. In fact, the Propel's multimedia and 3G offerings are quite compelling, even if we weren't pleased with the keypad design. The Samsung Propel is available for $79.95 with a two-year service agreement and after a mail-in rebate.
The Propel has a similar design to that of the Verizon Wireless Blitz. They both have a somewhat square shape, and both slide up to reveal a QWERTY keyboard. The similarities end there, however. Measuring 3.85 inches long by 2.33 inches wide by 0.58 inch thick, the Propel is much thinner than the Blitz, with a flatter front design. Though it is slightly bowed on the left and right side, the Propel is also much less curvy than its competitor. So while the Blitz appears cute and cuddly, the Propel is more lean and mean.
On the front of the Propel is a nice 2.2-inch display with support for only 65,000 colors, which is quite a disappointment by our standards. The screen looks decent enough, but colors looked muted and dull. The menu interface is typical Samsung and is easy to use. You can adjust the backlight time, the dialing font (type, size, color, and background color), brightness, and the menu style.
The navigation array consists of two skinny soft keys, a round toggle with a middle confirmation key, a dedicated text message key, a Clear key, and the Talk and End/Power keys. The round toggle can be pressed in four directions, each of which doubles as four user-defined shortcuts. The middle confirmation key also acts as a shortcut to the Web browser. Though the two soft keys are raised above the surface, the rest of the keys are completely flat (with the exception of the round toggle). We didn't like the feel of the flat slippery keys and would've liked a bit more texture.
Slide the phone open and you'll reveal a full QWERTY keyboard. The keyboard didn't feel either cramped or roomy; sort of somewhere in-between. The individual keys, however, were small and felt quite slippery--we would've preferred a bit more grip or texture on the keys. Aside from the typical function and Caps/Shift keys, the keyboard also has dedicated keys for the camera, AT&T's Cellular Video service, and the phone's sound profile.
The left spine of the Propel is home to a volume rocker and microSD card slot, while the right spine is home to a charger jack as well as a Shortcuts key. The Shortcuts key toggles between the phone, the messaging menu, the Media Net browser, the music player, and the games and applications folder. When the phone is slid open, you'll find the camera lens and self-portrait mirror on the back.